The New Creativity

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While there are significant issues of control, structure and compensation that agencies and marketers must address to discover and fully exploit the "new creativity," the opportunities for those who do are considerable, according to a panel of creative firebrands assembled by Creativity during Advertising Week in New York. "The ad industry is the industry of the future," said Scott Goodson, creative director of Strawberry Frog. "We understand how to engage people and how to solve problems for marketers. But in order for us to capitalize on that as a business, it's going to take a lot of vacuum-sucking to get all the cobwebs and dust out of the attic of the industry."

Goodson joined Publicis worldwide creative director David Droga, Wieden + Kennedy New York co-creative director Ty Montague, Taxi chairman and creative director Paul Lavoie and Anomaly co-founder Ernest Lupinacci to discuss the present and future of advertising creativity. Panelists employed everything from the legend of Keyser Soze to clips of the Oompa Loompas to illustrate their own thinking on the state of creativity, as well as deconstructing groundbreaking work like W+K's "Beta 7" campaign for Sega and the structure of their agencies.

"One of the most important things facing our industry now is the issue of control," said Montague. "We're living through an era when control is passing out of the hands of creators of products and media and into the hands of consumers of products and media. It's a fundamental change in the mindset of our whole industry." Other panelists also talked about work which engaged a segment of consumers more meaningfully, in the context of bigger changes in thinking about creative challenges facing marketers and agencies. Droga talked about Publicis London's Hype campaign for HP, which enlisted the talents of designers to create work that included the letters H and P, with the resulting work exhibited in a dedicated gallery and online. "It creates a movement and loyalty because we knew what the audience wanted," said Droga. "Instead of thinking what are we going to do in TV and print, it's how can we connect with our audience. It's knowing how to do something where people interact with it. Arm's length communication is dead."

Lupinacci turned heads with two film clips he positioned as representative of what agencies are now, and what they need to be. The former was illustrated by a scene from Godfather II featuring the mewling protestations of soon-to-be-whacked brother Fredo; the latter with the violent scene from The Usual Suspects wherein Kevin Spacey recounts the bloody birth of the legend of Keyser Soze-who, as Lupinacci's point went, had the will to do what the other guy wouldn't.

Lavoie talked about building his innovative Taxi agency from a foundation that includes elements like doubt, courage and voice. "Doubt is about never assuming, it's about questioning, thinking differently," said Lavoie. "It's also important to hire people who are brave. Often when you look at a creative department, it's actually conservative. Conservative is about protecting what is-creative is about expanding and finding new opportunities."

Several of the panelists espoused an inclusive, multi-discipline approach to building the "creative department." "It's a big issue and it's one of the things we're trying to do-building creative departments with multiple disciplines," said Droga. Doing so within a large agency is difficult said Droga, but the rewards are commensurate with the challenge. "Major clients offer us fantastic case studies, for example, the HP (Hype) project-that's not a small, quirky client, so it sets a massive precedent." In Lupinacci's case, that inclusive approach meant launching an agency with principals from the account planning, media strategy and client worlds. "You can talk to a client about production values and executional ideas, but what really wins their trust is when you talk to them about marketing creativity-when you say we're going to solve your marketing problems."

Goodson pointed to increasing willingness of clients to look at smaller or different agency models. "There are so many changes in the market that allow a small player to be working with a major advertiser," said Goodson. "Clients want new ways of working and it starts with business creativity." And major clients looking beyond traditional ads, including branded content will be inclined to look to TV companies and other players if agencies don't ante up with new people and solutions "You have to have a model where agencies bring in outsiders out of courage not out of fear," said Goodson. "We have to bring in the kinds of people who are going to teach clients and lead, otherwise someone else will."

Panelists also touched on the idea of the changing compensation model, one of the major factors that will push any notion of "new creativity" forward. Lupinacci pointed to the contrast between a movie studio, which can draw revenue from the properties it's created and agencies. "We're trying to say to our clients, don't look at these as marketing dollars that may create income. Give us the money, invest it, and we will create a transactionable idea that will sell your product but also create a revenue stream directly."

The new creativity, said Lupinacci is "full of opportunity. The problem with the way the new creativity has been marketed so far is, it's as if we're saying 'we figured out what the last resort is.' The new creativity should be positioned as the first opportunity, not the last resort."

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